Planning For Sustainable Forest Restoration: The Case Study Of Hartley Wood In The Arboretum at Penn State

Open Access
Lakoba, Vasiliy T
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 23, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Mallika Bose, Thesis Advisor
  • Derrick Taff, Committee Member
  • Ken Tamminga, Committee Member
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Planning
  • Invasive plants
  • Invasive species
  • Forest Restoration
  • Ecological Restoration
Ecological restoration is an important process which landscape architects and planners may implement on a variety of sites. This is not only important to flora and fauna and the recovery of life-sustaining natural processes, but is a social good which can strongly connect communities to natural surroundings and to one another for generations. It is both science and art -- drawing on technical expertise as well as public consciousness and participation. Currently, there is very little longitudinal reporting on the successes and failures in sustaining restorations of landscapes. While Landscape Performance is an emergent movement in design practice, it has not yet been able to formulate generalizable guidelines for long-term social and ecological sustainability of restoration projects. Currently, this is due to the focus on site scale design in Landscape Performance, as opposed to intervention in landscape system processes. An in-depth case study with common challenges of forest restoration could extract lessons in project planning for a variety of contexts. The Arboretum at Penn State has for several years – and, for the last two, in earnest – taken on the restoration of native plant communities in Hartley Wood. This site consists of 40 acres of old growth oak-dominant forest, which developed a vigorous invasive shrub layer (a potential harbinger of ecosystem collapse) due to decades without comprehensive management. As part of the current effort in establishing a native wildflower trail in the woodlot, The Arboretum has embarked on a multi-year phased removal of invasive species and intensive re-introduction of natives previously documented on site. The intensity of this design’s implementation on the landscape, however, garners a wide variety of responses from habitual trail visitors. The integration of ecologically effective measures with a nuanced approach to maintaining community cooperation will be critical to the project’s long-term success. This thesis conducts biophysical and social surveys and suggests analogous GIS and other digital analyses for use by landscape architects embarking on restoration projects. The biophysical survey is composed of botanical and soil studies. The botanical study maps the distribution of seventeen invasive species shared between Hartley Wood and the adjacent residential neighborhoods of College Heights and Overlook Heights. The soil study compares fungal populations in several habitats in and around Hartley Wood and points to salient factors in their restoration potential. The author offers GIS alternatives for these studies in design practice. The social survey finds statistically significant predictors of College Heights and Overlook Heights residents’ willingness to remove invasive plants on their property. The author extracts lessons on content and methods for future surveys in restoration planning. Together, these approaches will allow The Arboretum and analogous restoration managers to prioritize workflows and outreach both on the site and beyond it. An examination of the process will lead to a better understanding of the process by which to integrate ecological restoration into landscape design and management practice. The ultimate aim is to contribute to the framing of ecological restoration and related decision-making within Landscape Architecture practice.